What a relief. And a joy. Dee Bell starts off her new album “Lins, Lennox & Life” with the wonderful Ivan Lins composition “By Chance (Acaso)”, a hopeful, soothing tune which is perfectly sung by the unobtrusive and calming voice of the Indiana-born singer. She easily won me over by the way she phrases the two words “by chance”. Her husky voice, tender at the same time, sometimes reminding me of Anita O’Day, seems to be the ideal vehicle for the Brazilian composer’s tunes. It’s an amazingly sympathetic and gracious instrument she calls her own. She can be light and breezy, floating over and around “After The Storm (Depois Dos Temporais)”, effectively and expertly arranged by Marcos Silva who also plays keys on the album.
I’ve known her music and artistry since her two 80s albums on Concord Records, “Let There Be Love” and “One By One” which featured Stan Getz and Tom Harrell and then she somehow disappeared from recording until she released her “Sagacious Grace” album in 2011 and “Silva.Bell.Elation” four years later. The six Ivan Lins compositions here are well-chosen and her very pure and no-gimmicks phrasing is more than welcome in a world of too many singers trying to squeeze too many things into one song and thus, totally forget to tell a story. Listen to “Crying Of The Waters (Choro Das Aguas)”, first released on Ivan’s 1977 album “Somos Todos Iguais Nesta Noite”, and you’ll get the drift. Dee also sings in Portuguese, and convincingly so, on “Boa Nova” and also features a track from Ivan’s brilliant “Love Dance” album from 1989. The amazing “Evolution”, as Dee says in the liner notes now more appropriate than ever in the contaminated politics in the US (and elsewhere), is one of the highlights on the album I think. The way she states “welcome back tyrannosaurus/maybe we can get it right this time” comes across as both a warning and a plea for sanity and rationality. A wonderful add to this collection. Her phrasing of “state” in the line “evolution is a state of mind” is sublime.
She follows the tune with the happy and bright “Believe What I Say (Daquilo Que Eu Sei)” which was sung and written by Patti Austin on the still fantastic 1986 Ivan Lins LP “Juntos” which featured his version of “Dinorah, Dinorah” (recorded by George Benson on his 1980 classic “Give Me The Night”) and gives it another soothing and calming drift. There is also one composition by Marcos Silva here (the beautiful “What Might Have Been)” and two songs by the wonderful Annie Lennox from my favorite Annie album, the 1992 “Diva”: “Stay By Me” is exquisitely done and Dee’s ability for getting a story across is especially spot-on. A true gem. And “Primitive”, the album closer here, once again proves that reposeful and tranquil vocals indeed can work magic. “That Old Black Magic”, the Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer classic, seems like an obscure add to the album of contemporary writers, but the combination of Marcos’ Brazilian flavors on piano and Dee’s easily swinging style only add to the winning concept.